Parents deal with fussy eating and picky eaters all too often and more so with their toddlers even refusing to eat.
The moment your baby becomes a toddler, they're bound to have some objections about the kinds of food groups you're offering to them.
This can be especially frustrating if nutrition is important to your family. As your toddlers taste buds mature and they learn to enjoy healthier foods, here are some tips to help you battle pickiness at meal time and have a little food fun on the way!
Stick to a Routine with Food Your Child Will Eat
Parents often think that kids need to be constantly eating to support their growing bodies.
However, this can quickly lead to childhood obesity. In fact, 1 in 4 Australian children are either overweight or obese.
Part of this trend may be due to growing portion sizes and parents serving kids more food than they need.
Boredom snacking can also be mistaken for thinking your toddler is growing and needs the extra meals/snack throughout the day to keep up, even if these snacks include a simple cup of milk.
If you are stuck as to what category your family meals or what it is your toddler is eating you can checkout Australian guide to healthy eating from Eat For Health Australia website.
This will help your toddler's diet remain balanced while keeping them from getting too hungry throughout the day.
It’s a great idea to make a daily meal schedule. Kids actually love helping create their schedule and having their own input into what meals are going on the list. This is especially great for the little ones who are known for picky eating.
This is also a great way to start educating them on how many snacks are to be consumed in a day and why.
Having a set time for afternoon snacks will also allow your child time to burn the food off they have eating in time for dinner.
If your child chooses not to eat a meal, stay calm, they’ll get nutrients when they eat a healthy snack later.
When you go out, plan for your snack times by bringing things like veggie sticks and fruit so you aren’t left making a pit stop for fast food!
Don’t Make Separate Meals for the Kids
One way to quickly wear yourself out as a parent is to be a cook that caters for a wide variety of meals for each family member.
Cooking separate meals actually enable fussy eaters, discouraging them from trying new foods or being adventurous.
If you are really concerned you can refer to this article that talks about the 10 signs to watch out for and when to get extra assistance.
If your child is taught to eat the same meal as everyone else, they'll quickly learn to be more flexible.
This also teaches all young children that not every meal they eat has to be their favourite. They will open up to the idea of eating something they may not necessarily enjoy.
Just make sure that there is always something at the table that your child likes, such as rice, a favourite veggie, or some fruit.
This will keep mealtime positive even when your kid is faced with foods they don't like.
Respect Your Child’s Appetite
If you’re not making your child's favourite meal every night, chances are they won’t finish everything on their plate. And that’s okay!
You should never force your child to clean their plate. In fact, this can actually cause children to get in the habit of overeating.
Don't bribe or force your child to eat something they don't want to since this can cause your child to associate mealtime with anxiety.
Children won't starve themselves, so don't fixate on how much your kid is eating.
Instead, focus on making sure their meal experience is always positive! We are obsessed with Kidspot kitchen and their range of recipes for fussy eaters.
Be Patient Introducing New Foods
Trying to introduce new foods to a toddler who is a fussy eater can feel like an uphill battle. But, there are a few ways to make it easier!
First, make sure you’re calm. If you seem stressed and frustrated, your child is much more likely to throw a fit.
Offer the new food as one of the first bites of the meal so your child is still hungry when they try it. Let them touch and play with it so they get accustomed to the texture. Sometimes if a child rejects a food it can be due to a fear of not knowing.
Having the chance to touch it in their fingers and feel it first helps make them more open to the new taste.
In saying this though, encouraging playing with your food is not something we are trying to promote.
Most importantly, don’t give up after just one try. It can even take 10 or more tries of a new food before your kid likes it!
Make Healthy Meals More Fun
Making your healthy snacks and meals fun are sure to get your kids more excited about them.
If your toddler has some favourite unhealthy snacks, you can probably find some healthy alternatives. They may not even notice the difference!
For example, try making your own granola bars instead of giving them sugar-filled ones from the store.
Or, try hummus as an alternative to cheese dip for veggies. If your kid doesn’t like eating greens with dinner, try making them a sweet green smoothie instead.
Get creative and see what fun and healthy meals you can come up with!
Here are some great dinner ideas from The Spruce if you need something your picky eater is sure to enjoy.
Let Your Kid Get Involved
Including your fussy eaters in your shopping and food prep will help them get excited about the foods they’re eating.
Even if your kid is as young as 18 months old, there’s still something they can do to help out in the kitchen.
For example, have them help you squeeze the juice from lemons and limes by using a citrus squeezer or just by squishing the fruit in their hands.
Giving your kids taste tests of the food and asking them for feedback will help them feel involved and more in control over their meals, giving them the confidence to try new things.
Stop treating mealtime like a battle. You can never go wrong by approaching difficult situations with a calm and positive attitude.
Most importantly, model healthy eating behaviour for your child.
Children love to copy adults, and when they see you smiling and enjoying broccoli, they'll want to get involved!
If you are concerned about your toddler getting their clothes dirty in the kitchen, checkout our Feeding range that will have you covered for every stage in your child’s journey.
If you have some tips on how you have dealt with a hard situation, we would love to hear from you. Sign up to our Newsletter to stay in touch or leave your comment below.
We love hearing from everyone and learning new ways to help our Close Parent family.